is a normal
part of life. Changes that
trigger the stress response may be external,
or internal. Internal triggers can include physical illness or
"psychological stress". Examples
of each would be:
- time pressure
"Psychological Stress" or how we interpret the events or circumstances of the
external/internal triggers. For example, losing a job because the company is
"down-sizing" may be stressful in a different way than losing a job
because we believe we have been falsely accused of incompetence.
REGARDLESS OF THE SOURCE OF "STRESS",
THERE ARE CERTAIN PHYSICAL
REACTIONS THAT CAN OCCUR WHICH MAY HAVE HARMFUL
ACUTE STRESS SUCH AS ALMOST BEING IN A CAR ACCIDENT
CAN BE FELT AS SUDDEN POUNDING IN THE HEAD (DUE TO INCREASED BLOOD PRESSURE),
A SPEEDING UP (OR SLOWING DOWN) OF THE HEART, OR A WARM FLUSHED SENSATION OVER
THE FACE AND TRUNK. THIS IS DUE
TO THE SUDDEN RELEASE OF "ADRENALINE" AND IS GENERALLY KNOWN AS THE
"FIGHT OR FLIGHT" RESPONSE. THIS
IS NORMAL - IT IS THE CHRONIC STRESS
WHICH NEEDS TO BE MANAGED.
When the human body experiences stress, a series of
chemical changes occur. The
pituitary gland releases a hormone that in turn triggers the adrenal glands to
release epinephrine and various other hormones.
This process produces a physical
reaction of the body that includes increased heart rate, increased blood
pressure, increase respiration, muscle tension, and increased perspiration.
This process of adaptation is a normal
reaction that is usually considered healthy.
Prolonged and unwanted stress, however, can have undesirable effects on
mental and physical health, the body's adaptive and resistance mechanisms may
become exhausted, and hormonal changes may weaken the body's defences against
disease. Reactions can vary among
I: Potential Effects of Stress on Health
- Heart attack
Reduced resistance to infection
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Post-trauma stress syndrome
Failure to menstruate
include chest pain - but don't automatically assume this is the cause
ability to make decisions
emotions like sadness and anger
or frequent anger
fear or outright panic
to sit still
tics or mannerisms like nail-biting, toe tapping
use of alcohol or drugs
or decreased eating or sleeping
The factors that trigger the stress response are
The stressor is the
Stress is the effect.
Death of a spouse
Worry about children
Personal injury or illness
Fired at work
Birth of a baby
Unclear job expectations
Conflict with family
Difficulty saying no
Lack of confidence
Low self esteem
Job responsibilities overload
Waiting in line
Usually we cannot do much to alter the stressful
conditions in which we live. We
improve the ways in which we react to stressful
Make a list of the things you find most stressful in
Would you like us to help you manage any of these?
Speak to your nurse.
There are different ways of managing stress, and
since everyone is different, no single technique will be right for every
individual. You must find the technique
that suits you best. Two general
categories of stress management can
be considered: physical
is the most
beneficial and least destructive way to work off frustration, and has the extra
bonuses of toning and strengthening your body.
Stressors that we deal with more are often psychological, but our bodies
still respond physiologically. With
physical exercise the body can process the physiological changes, and clear the
harmful build-up of chemicals.
balanced diet contributes
to a healthy body, enabling one to be better prepared for stressors.
the body and mind. Allow for more
sleep time during extra stressful periods.
If the sleep pattern is affected, a ritual such as half-hour wind-down
period before going to bed may be helpful.
Herbal teas or warm milk can have a sleep-inducing effect.
They have fewer side effects than sleeping pills
Stress Physically cont’d
slowly and deeply tends
to release the tension build-up. Often
we react to a stressful
event with rapid shallow breathing which
itself serves to makes us feel more stressed.
exercises, meditation techniques and regular participation in
sports are found to counteract life's pressures. It has been shown that these relaxation techniques can modify
the response to epinephrine and other adrenal hormones directly responsible for
Progressive muscle relaxation:
Allow yourself 15-20 minutes to practice this
procedure once or twice a day. Try
to find a quiet room where you will not be disturbed and that is comfortable for
you. You may either sit or lie
down. If sitting, try to have a
comfortable armchair where your head and arms can be supported.
Once you have become comfortable, close your eyes and think about a
pleasant, quiet place where you have been or one that is easy for you to imagine
(like being on the beach and listening to the waves).
As you are going through the relaxation procedure and you find yourself
thinking about problems at work or things you have to do, gently ease them away
by returning to thinking about your more relaxing thought.
I . Sit
comfortably in a chair. Loosen any
constrictive clothing such as belts.
Assess your breathing. place one hand on your chest and one hand on your
abdomen. Breathe in through your
nose and out through your nose or mouth. Your
upper chest is probably the only part rising.
To relax, you must breathe deeply. Now
breathe deep through to your belly. Let
your belly rise. Allow yourself to
relax. Breathe in and out slowly.
3 . Inhale
deeply, filling belly first then lower lungs, then filling the chest and pushing
ribs out. Reach out, allowing
yourself to become more relaxed.
Inhale through your nose to a slow count of 4; hold your breath to a slow
count of 4; breathe out to a count of 4.
Allow yourself to relax.
time, increase to a count of 6 or 7. Hold the same count; exhale to the same
Breathing Technique to feel more alert:
Inhale to a count of 6; hold for a count of one;
exhale for a count of 3.
Breathing technique to help sleep:
Inhale to a count of 3; hold for a count of one;
exhale to a count of 6.
Tension and relaxation exercises:
Tense each muscle group for about 5-10 seconds
before releasing it. Then
concentrate the relaxation you feel for 30 seconds to I minute before proceeding
to the next muscle group so that you may become aware of the difference in
feeling. Breathe normally.
Hands: clench each fist separately and feel the tension, then
do both together.
Lower arms: make a fist and bend each arm up at the elbow, first
with the right arm,
then repeat with the left arm,
Upper arms: reach out the right arm in front of you as if you are
something, then relax it. Repeat with the left arm.
Facial muscles: tightly close your eyes and "scrunch up" your
Eyebrows: lift with your eyes still closed.
Neck: bend your head back then forward so your chin touches
Shoulder: shrug one and then the other and then both.
fill lungs with air, hold and breathe out.
Abdomen: tense stomach muscles by bearing down.
Buttocks and thighs: flex by pressing heels of feet into the floor.
Lower leg:. point toes toward your head then away from your head.
Feet: crinkle toes and hold.
to express your feelings and opinions directly, honestly, and respectfully is
one key factor in reducing stress. Active
listening reduces misunderstandings. If
you are uncertain about a message, take time to check out what you believe the
other person is saying. Trying to
read people's minds instead of clarifying the issue usually results in a
people as unique individuals. When we respect our own value, we become more aware of
the value of others. Before flying
off the handle, remember that anger is frequently an indication that you expect
someone to be more like you. Check
out the source of your frustration or anger and be clear about where changes, if
any, need to be made. You may find
that working with others is easier and less stressful than competing with others
in everyday activities.
is for gods and angels: be realistic. Some people expect too much from themselves and forget
to give themselves credit for a job well done.
Be clear about your own standards, and check that you are not
being controlled by someone else's standards.
Being superior in everything is simply not possible.
quiet time: Develop
a daily habit of spending some time alone to relax.
The place that you
choose to be alone can be real or created in your
Stress Psychologically cont’d
It's OK to give
in occasionally. No one is
the fine art of saying "NO":
This will give you more time.
one thing at a time. Divide your workload into smaller tasks and enjoy a
accomplishment when each is completed.
small beauties. Take time to appreciate the beauties in the
environment. The part of
blue between the clouds, the seasonal colours, the
artwork on office walls.
about problems and concerns. Don't bottle up your feelings.